The group of plants known as evergreens is diverse. It is well known that they have foliage. All year long, it remains bright and verdant. That’s why many people choose such shrubs and trees in their gardens and landscapes so that they enjoy their ever-green beauty year-round.

You can also pick and choose from a variety of shapes, sizes and textures amongst the evergreen trees. They range from tall pines to compact boxwoods. This variety makes them versatile additions to any outdoor space.

Pruning is vital for evergreen care. It means selectively removing branches and foliage. This enhances their health, shape, and appearance. Evergreens can grow immensely in the right environment, but regular proper pruning can keep them ideal size and shape for your landscape. It also makes them dense and stops common problems like disease and pests.

bird on pine tree
Evergreens bring colour and wildlife to your garden

1. Characteristics of Evergreens

Description of Evergreens

Evergreens are distinguished from other plants by their evergreen leaves, which are green all year round and resemble needles or scales. Autumn is when deciduous trees and shrubs lose their leaves. This gives a constant backdrop of greenery in the landscape.

Growth Habits and Forms

Evergreens have many growth habits and forms. They might be spreading and prostrate, or upright and conical. Some evergreens have a low, spreading shape, such as junipers and yews. Others, like spruces and firs, have a more upright, pyramidal shape.

evergreen Daphne bholua Jacqueline Postill flower in winter
The evergreen Daphne bholua Jacqueline Postill flower in winter

2. Reasons for Pruning Evergreens

Enhancing Year-Round Beauty

People prune evergreens to improve their year-round beauty. They do this by keeping their shape and structure. Pruning prevents overgrowth. It also keeps things neat and promotes lush, healthy foliage.

Promoting Health and Vigour

Additionally essential to preserving the health and vigour of evergreens is pruning. Pruning is essentially just removing broken, diseased or dead branches from your trees. This increases their health and stops the risk of spreading diseases to the rest of the crown. It also improves the tree’s canopy and airflow.

Addressing Structural Issues

Pruning can help fix structural issues. These include crossed or rubbing branches, co-dominant stems, and weak branch attachments. Pruning can improve the tree. It does this by cutting off bad branches. This boosts its strength and cuts the risk of branch failure.

evergreen rhododendron
Rhododendron are popular evergreens with beautiful flowers in May/June, and pruning immediately after the blooming period is standard practice

3. When to Prune Evergreens

Seasonal Timing for Pruning

If your trees have diseased or dead branches, you should remove them straight away. In other cases, pruning time depends on the species’ needs and preferences. But during the dormant season, make significant pruning. This season is typically in late winter or early spring before new growth begins.

Considerations for Different Evergreen Species

You have to take into account each evergreen species’ requirements and growth patterns. Some evergreens can be trimmed during any season but not pines and spruces for example.

Pruning shrub
You can prune most evergreen shrubs just before growth starts in mid-spring, after any risk of frost has passed

4. Techniques for Pruning Evergreens

Selective Pruning

Selective pruning involves removing individual branches or foliage. This is done carefully to keep the evergreen’s desired shape and size. This technique allows precise control over the tree’s appearance. It can help create a natural, organic look.

Crown Thinning

Crown thinning involves removing interior branches. This reduces density and allows more sunlight and air into the canopy.

Deadwood Removal

Removing dead, sick, or broken branches is essential. It keeps evergreens healthy and looking good. Deadwood removal should be done regularly to prevent the spread of decay and minimise the risk of branch failure.

Shaping and Shearing

Shaping and shearing are common pruning techniques. They are used to make formal or geometric shapes in evergreens, like hedges or topiaries. Shaping and shearing can maintain a neat look. But, do them sparingly to avoid stress and damage to the tree.

Pieris plants with young red leaves and white flowers
Prune evergreens like Pieris plants to get fresh young red leaves and white flowers

5. Tips for Proper Pruning

Assessing Evergreen Health

Examine the evergreen’s health and structure prior to pruning. Look for any branches that need to be removed that are dead, sick, or damaged. Look for signs of pests, fungi, or weak structures. These issues may need attention.

Pruning Young vs. Mature Evergreens

Young evergreens require different pruning techniques than mature trees. Focus on making a strong branch structure when pruning young trees. Remove competing or poorly positioned branches. When the evergreen trees are already mature, you need to focus on their crown maintenance and a bit on structural pruning.

Pruning Overgrown or Neglected Evergreens

Regular quick trims are easy to do but if you’ve neglected your trees then they are probably in need of serious trimming work. In such a case, you might call a professional tree surgery service to do it safely. This is to restore its health and shape. Consider consulting with an arborist. They can advise you on what to do exactly with large and overgrown trees.

evergreen heather
Prune dead flower heads on heather after flowering

6. Common Pruning Mistakes to Avoid


The most common mistake people make is over-pruning their trees and shrubbery. Over-pruning can weaken the evergreen. It disrupts its natural growth pattern and makes it more open to pests and diseases.

Incorrect Timing

We do not advise you to prune trees and shrubs while they are in active season as it’s dangerous to their health and future growth. First, check what the ideal time to trim your type of evergreens is. It also keeps the tree from recovering from wounds from trimming.

Improper Technique

Using bad pruning techniques can cause problems. For example, topping or lion-tailing can lead to ugly and unhealthy growth. Always make clean cuts just outside the branch collar or bark ridge. This promotes fast healing and stops disease entry.

Conclusion: Pruning Evergreens for Year-Round Beauty

Evergreens that have been pruned have better health, form, and attractiveness. It is an essential component of tree care. Maintaining the beauty of your evergreens can be achieved by knowing the fundamentals, methods, and best practices of trimming. They will be vibrant all year. They will add beauty and elegance to your landscape for years.

What evergreens are popular in the UK

These evergreens are commonly found in gardens, parks, and landscapes throughout the UK due to their adaptability to the climate and their year-round green foliage.

  • Yew (Taxus baccata)
  • Holly (Ilex aquifolium)
  • Scots Pine (Pinus sylvestris)
  • Leyland Cypress (Cupressocyparis leylandii)
  • Boxwood (Buxus sempervirens)
  • Laurel (Prunus laurocerasus)
  • Juniper (Juniperus communis)
  • False Cypress (Chamaecyparis lawsoniana)
  • Cedar (Cedrus spp.)

I’m also a big fan of heather and Rhododendrons due to the colour they bring.